For medical students in basic sciences, a salad can be a great “energy” lunch that lets you stay alert in class. For students on rotations and residents, a fresh salad is a great lunch and an even better middle of the night meal when you are on call.
The concept couldn’t be easier – put lettuce, spinach, or the greens of your choice in a big container. Top with protein, cheese, veggies, nuts and/or fruit. If you don’t care what it looks like, it’s also really easy to dump it all in a big zip-lock bag. When it’s time to eat, pour the salad dressing in the bag with the salad, shake, and then serve yourself from the bag.
Protein: Beans from a can, beans you make yourself with a crockpot or pressure cooker (which saves money and avoid excess salt and additives), canned tuna, cooked chicken from the deli, prepackaged meats (look at the labels to make sure you aren’t getting a lot of additives you don’t want), shrimp, etc.
Cheese: Shredded cheddar, Monterey jack or Mexican cheese (reduced fat or regular), feta, goat cheese, thin slices of parmesan
Veggies: Any leftover in your refrigerator! Another good idea for this is to buy what you need for a mirepoix when you do your once a week shopping. A mirepoix is the basis of French cooking and is one part onions, one part carrots, and one part celery. The Cajun trinity is similar but substitutes green bell pepper for the carrots. If you buy the ingredients for a mirepox (or trinity) and chop it up on the weekend, you can use handfuls in salads, omelets, soups, etc all week. (You can add other things, too, like mushrooms, red bell pepper, etc – anything that can be eaten raw). If its a really busy week and you don’t have time to chop up vegetables, you can used canned green beans, corn, beets… whatever vegetables you like.
Nuts and/or fruits: Adding some dried fruits and nuts, sunflower seeds, etc, will add some extra nutrition. Fresh fruits like blueberries, strawberries, sliced peaches are delicious in salads. Canned fruits, especially mandarin oranges, are good, too.
Salad dressing. Don’t put the dressing on the salad until you are ready to eat. (The French say it “cooks” the salad… but the result in any language is soggy salad.) My favorite dressing is a homemade vinaigrette. Start with vinegar (red wine, white wine, sherry or balsalmic), a clove of diced (not crushed) garlic, a healthy teaspoon of good Dijon style mustard, salt and pepper. Stir these all together until the salt is dissolved and the mustard is blended with the vinegar. Add olive oil while you are stirring (or shake it up at the end.) The classic ratio is 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil, but you can add less oil to taste. I usually squeeze a little lemon juice in, too.
The easiest thing by far is bottled salad dressings. Be careful about calories (if you are watching your weight). If you take salads to work regularly, you may want to leave the bottle there (unless the food snatchers raid your refrigerator on a regular basis).
I’m going to have to try your homemade vinaigrette idea. That sounds more flavorful than my simple oil/vinegar mix. Would it keep well stored in a jar (old jelly jar or canning jar) in the fridge for a week or so?
Yes, it keeps well even though it’s a little better made fresh. In France, they make a little bit of the dressing in the bottom of the salad bowl, put the lettuce on top and toss it just before serving. If you use olive oil, the oil will solidify in the fridge – but a minute or so under warm running water and it’s back to baseline.